8 Track, LP (2011, Rough Skies/Ride the Snake)
Related: Native Cats.
To these ears at least, Native Cats are far and away the best Tasmanian electronic pub rock duo in operation. The follow-up to their debut LP Always On sees their dark indie-pop stepping up a level. The heavier and more aggressive drum machine is the first thing to notice with vocalist Peter Escott flinging the tinny Castiotone into the Derwent in favour of a meatier sound. Julian Teakle's basslines have always maintained a low-level menace, but on tracks such as 'The Singer Is Dead to Me' and 'You Need a Driver' they are now cold squints of meanness.
It's just not the sound and song titles that have rolled up their sleeves. While Escott's erudite and astute observations of the minutiae of Hobart life remain, it's now like a Ken Loach film taken over by Sam Peckinpah. 'Dani Dani' is more than six minutes of unveiled threats of brutal revenge. “Some punk took a swing at my head/Tried to pluck it like a ripe tomato,” Escott sings on 'You Need a Driver'.
Of course, anyone who has seen Escott perform on stage either with the Native Cats or as part of his stand up comic career would never mistake him for Henry Rollins. But judging by the sound and sentiment of the new songs he's not about to take any crap. Married life it seem has hardened him up.
I've mentioned it before but many instances in Native Cats songs remind me of the dry and deadpan wit of Scottish outfit Arab Strap. The same is true of the new album and when Escott sings, “I'm driving around with somebody else's vanity plates/Someone's else defensive drive”, on 'Eyes of the Gang', I'm again reminded of Falkirk's finest.
By the time the LP closes out with 'Power In' – a haunting duet featuring Teakle's former Bad Luck Charms bandmate Lisa Rime – the listener has quite possibly experienced one of the strongest local releases of the year. Yes, the Native Cats sound has expanded but it's still as lean and concise as ever, or as Escott explains it best, “Solid like a sensibly-packed suitcase.”
by Tim Scott